MANATEE -- An audit of Manatee County Animal Services division found that some of the allegations of wrongdoing made by a former shelter manager after she was fired last year were true.
The audit, completed by the Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller's Office and delivered to Manatee County officials this week, found incorrect practices related to employee time cards and vaccinations at the Palmetto shelter, 305 25th St. W.
As items came up during the interviews conducted for the audit, Animal Services staff "fixed them as soon as they came to light," said Bob Smith, the county's public safety director.
"A lot of it has already been addressed," he said.
The report was posted online Friday.
Allegations made by former Animal Services shelter manager Beth Lewis, who was fired in July, prompted the audit.
In her letter, which had spread through social media over the summer, Lewis detailed problems she experienced during her less than four months as shelter manager, including employees lying on time sheets, staff shortages and improp
"I was undermined on every decision," Lewis wrote.
Lewis said she tried to implement a system where shelter employees were required to sign in and out, but was told she could not ask employees to do that.
On Friday when reached for comment, Lewis said, "The only thing I can say at this time is I have heard great things about the new director and wish I would have had the opportunity to work for her. I wish the best for Manatee County."
The audit found some clerical and administrative oversight problems in regard to timecards, Smith said. For example, people would take a vacation day but not record it on their timesheet, which wasn't corrected by the supervisor.
"There were also issues where people had a vacation day listed, but actually worked," Smith said. "It kind of went both ways and they didn't find anything was done deliberately. We need to tighten up our timekeeping procedures, how we track employees' time when they come to work and when they are going home."
As of Thursday, changes were already underway as Sarah Brown, the Animal Services chief, was preparing a memo for her staff, Smith said.
"We need better procedures for clocking in and clocking out for our employees," Smith said. "We have different ways to do that. We just need a constant way across the division. Sarah is working on that now and we are scheduling staff training to make sure everybody knows how to do it."
In regard to the vaccinations, problems detailed in the audit about how vaccines are stored, how they are mixed and how long they are kept once mixed, have already been addressed, Smith said, adding they consulted their veterinarian as well as with national standards.
"We changed our procedures for when we mix vaccines and how to keep them, the record-keeping part of our medications and vaccines, and then who has access to the medications so who an actually do the mixing," Smith said.
Brown has been in contact with the county's Emergency Medical Services division to incorporate electronic record-keeping for Animal Services like EMS does for narcotics in the ambulances, Smith added.
"That will make a big difference and definitely streamline things, make things completely automated," he said.
The audit also addresses two other allegations Lewis made including staff shortages, which were true, but they were because Animal Services had a woman on maternity leave and was holding a position open until a former county employee who had retired hit "his one year of being off the roster before he could come back to work," Smith said.
The fourth point was a claim that Lewis' project dog was euthanized by staff in retaliation. The audit found that the dog was not euthanized but released to a rescue.
"It had been slated for euthanasia and Beth had signed off on the euthanasia," Smith said. "She was the one who approved the euthanasia before she left but at the end, it wasn't euthanized."
While the bulk of the audit was completed prior to when management of the Animal Services division returned to public safety department in October, Smith welcomed having the unbiased review of practices.
The audit findings reinforced a lot of the corrective measures that have been put in place since the change in management, Smith said.
"That was good confirmation that we were at least looking in the right places and turning over the right stone," he said. "My biggest message is the fact that we addressed things as soon as they came to our attention even before the audit came out and the things that we still need to work on, we are already working on. It really was good for us. It helps address some shortcomings."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.